In a chance meeting at a pre-pandemic installment of New York Toy Fair, pro diver and clay sculptor Vadim Govorov forged a fast friendship with veteran toy industry expert Richard Gottlieb. Their initial conversation sparked outside the Javits Convention Center gift shop and did not stop. The ice breaker was Vadim’s suitcase full of original, collectible mini figures in search of liberation, fame, and fortune.
In previous years, Vadim had achieved a modicum of Manhattan notoriety for his Wallace-and-Gromit-esque ideations of underwater and above-ground heroes (think contemporary first responders, military officers, and miscellaneous historical — and sometimes ribald — rogues like pirates and cowboys). However, at the time that Vadim and Richard crossed paths, Vadim had big time retail, publishing, and screen entertainment dreams. Richard, as the plaything-whispering publisher of GLOBAL TOY NEWS, offered actionable suggestions that might yield Vadim’s desired results. Their story-driven collaboration continues to the present.
While this duo poses for a cliffside leap into commercial partnership, Vadim reflects on his many-tentacled origin story. As Vadim answers questions from this author, mentor Richard supports, coaches, and coaxes silently from the shore in a style reminiscent of athletic coaches of yesteryear.
M.S. How do your goals as a content creator and diver intersect?
V.G. I would be open to doing a series about my life as a pro diver. I have had so many adventures that I think it would be very entertaining.
I am Ukrainian, and my favorite book is Jules Verne’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. Many years ago, after service in the Russian army as a dog trainer, and in the French foreign legion, I started my diving career via the College of Oceaneering in Los Angeles. From there, I went to work for big oil companies in the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Mexico, Indian Ocean, and West Africa. I dove in every ocean on this planet.
With time, I settled in New York and joined the New York divers union. I still travel for a good adventure and profit. I dove in the Bering Sea, mining for gold. I looked for sunken Spanish gold off the coast of Florida.
I do underwater construction and inspection in New York Harbor for several big diving companies. We are not affiliated with the NYPD SCUBA unit, but we often perform tasks they cannot handle, such as deep-water recovery and salvage. For example, I participated in salvaging the engine of “The Miracle on the Hudson” plane [2009 US Airways Flight 1549 crash and recovery] and a downed tourist helicopter on the East River.
I want to create educational programs for kids in the form of cartoon series and present the fantastic underwater world with all its beauty, danger, life forms, and endless exploration. I practically lived there for 25 years. Nobody knows that world better than I do. Also, I’m working on creating a graphic novel for my character, Rubber Ninja.
M.S. What a clever name! You are the Rubber Ninja, methinks!
V.G. Well, I am a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles . . . My bike riding — in the rain through New York City streets to my diving job — seems like the start of a good story, and it’s true! I’ve been a diver for over 25 years! I created a 70-page comic based on my career and my diver sculptures. Richard is helping me to prepare Rubber Ninja for pitches to potential publishers and other licensees.
M.S. As with diving, do you also sculpt for ‘good adventure and profit?’
V.G. Yes! I’ve made a lot of figures for my diving buddies to mark both funny and scary experiences. I’m a hammer and chisel type of guy. My figurines are handmade. Instead of painting them, I use different colored pieces of clay.
I have had many customers and collectors worldwide approach me for mostly commissioned projects. I did a big job for a retired executive from Kodak. I did a big project for Johnson and Johnson. S. Clay Wilson (cartoonist for PENTHOUSE magazine) was a big admirer of my work. Also, I made a sculpture for Faye Dunaway when I lived in L.A. (she’s a very pleasant person!). I didn’t save a picture of the artwork, but she was pleased. I was introduced to her by a mutual friend when I was working as a standby diver on one of the movie sets that involved water scenes.
I have an Etsy store; I also sell my work in a few gift shops around New York, in several dive shops, and in the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Florida. I have an extensive military collection on display in the [Fort Washington Avenue] Armory.
M.S. You appear to have a lot in common with late forensic sculptor and Vidocq Society co-founder Frank Bender. He, too, was a professional diver with a flair for clay carving. Do you see yourself dabbling in the true crime realm?
V.G. My creations are more cartoony caricatures, whereas Bender made realistic busts for law enforcement use in missing person and fugitive cases. But, yes, I would like to discuss a true crime podcast or something similar. I once helped to find 15 cars submerged underwater as part of a car dealership scam. That tale alone would be a great series . . . and even better toys!
For more about the depths of Vadim Govorov and Richard Gottlieb’s forthcoming toyetic and other pursuits, visit https://globaltoynews.com.